German Pirate Party Uses Drone to Crash Angela Merkel Event

Future Tense
The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Sept. 18 2013 2:12 PM

German Pirate Party Uses Drone to Crash Angela Merkel Event

FT-Merkel drone
The dastardly German Pirate Party's drone

Still from YouTube.

Over the weekend, a German campaign event in Dresden was disrupted when a small unmanned aerial vehicle—better known as a drone—flew across the crowd and toward the podium where Chancellor Angel Merkel sat. The operator of the drone was quickly found and arrested, which seemingly caused the UAV to make a rushed landing on the dais. Merkel looked on with a wry smile.

It didn’t take long for Pirate Party members to claim credit for the stunt, saying they meant to show Merkel what it’s like to be observed by a drone. (With German elections less than a week away, they also wanted to reignite discussion about a costly failed drone development plan.)

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German politics aside, the incident is important for a few reasons. For one, it shows how easy it is to fly a remote-controlled UAV into an unsuspecting public event. Combine that knowledge with the many videos on the Internet that show UAVs rigged up with paintball guns, toy rocket launchers, and machine guns and you have to wonder how long it will be before legal UAVs are being used for nefarious purposes.

And those are relatively high-tech riggings. How hard would it be to buy a UAV at Brookstone and duct tape a piece of dynamite to it?

Furthermore, what’s the response plan for when a weaponized UAV eventually flies into a stadium, parade, or election event? I’m sure the Secret Service has a plan it’s not sharing, but what about lower levels of law enforcement? Do we expect them to bring down a quickly moving aircraft the size of a football with small arms fire? Maybe the answer is to equip event security like skeet shooters, like the yahoos in this drone-shooting video recommend.

Look, I’m not siding with the guys in Colorado who want to hunt drones for sport. I’m just saying that UAVs are both easily available and easily modified. And every week it seems there’s a new tragedy to remind us that mentally unstable individuals will lash out in every way they can. Guns are one way to do that. Why not drones?

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Jason Bittel serves up science for picky eaters on his website, BittelMeThis.com. He lives in Pittsburgh. Follow him on Twitter.

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